February 1, 2023
BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (LA TIG), the group of state and federal agencies responsible for overseeing and approving spending Deepwater Horizon natural resource damages oil spill settlement dollars in Louisiana, approved $2.26 billion in funding for construction of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.
“Today’s decision is the culmination of exemplary collaboration across federal and state agencies to address a complex issue with an impactful solution. Coastal Louisiana is home to natural resources, communities, and assets that our country simply cannot afford to lose, and this decision acknowledges its significance on a national scale and from every point of view,” said Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Chairman Chip Kline. “With this funding, we are finally equipped to bring the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, a cornerstone project of our Coastal Master Plan, to life and implement a fundamentally new approach to restoration that makes our coastal program stronger and more sustainable than ever before.”
The LA TIG is comprised of both state and federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of the Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the state of Louisiana. The state of Louisiana is represented by CPRA, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The LA TIG evaluated the proposed Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, a range of alternatives, and a future without the project under the Oil Pollution Act to determine the project’s effectiveness in restoring for injuries to the natural resources in the Barataria Basin caused by the oil spill. Barataria Basin, the project’s location and greatest beneficiary, is one of the areas most impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and subsequent response activities.
As noted in their final Restoration Plan, the LA TIG believes that a sediment diversion is the only way to achieve a self-sustaining marsh ecosystem in the Barataria Basin.
“I commend the federal and state trustees for their commitment and leadership throughout this process. They remained dedicated to thorough analysis, deliberation of all factors, and emphasized keeping the wide array of stakeholders we serve at the forefront of decision-making,” said CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase. “The decision to fund this project is confirmation from federal and state leaders, as well as subject matter experts across an array of disciplines, that the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is the best way to restore an area that suffered greatly from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and still experiences some of the highest rates of land loss in the world. Further, it validates what science has pointed us to for decades—harnessing the power of Mississippi River is the most sustainable way to rebuild our coast.”
In December 2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published a Record of Decision (ROD) and approved the permits and permissions necessary to construct the project, completing an extensive environmental review process. With funding secured, CPRA is coordinating with USACE to finalize all engineering and design tasks and complete the administrative steps necessary to begin construction. It is anticipated that construction activities will begin later this year and take at least five years to complete.
Once operational, the project will have the ability to build and sustain up to 26,000 acres of wetlands that will support a stronger, more resilient estuary. These wetlands will provide increased storm surge protection for communities in southeast Louisiana and create healthier habitats for the wide variety of fish and wildlife. Other benefits include a substantial economic stimulus to the surrounding communities during project construction.
Since the project’s inception, CPRA has conducted extensive outreach to the project’s stakeholders, including conducting nearly 300 meetings since 2016 and engaging directly with community members. As information related to the timeline for construction and mitigation measures becomes available, the CPRA team will contact community members and continue to keep all stakeholders informed of project progress.
View the LA TIG’s announcement here.
For updates on the project, visit www.midbasin.coastal.la.gov.